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The Hour of the Star

The Hour of the Star


by Clarice Lispector

Analysis: Genre

Sorry, no adventure stories here. Instead, we get the heavy-hitters of literary genres, and a real mix of them. So let's see how we might fit this book in:

Realism and Literary Fiction

Glimpse into daily life? Check. Depressing, gritty depiction of the poor? Check. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a piece of bona fide realism.

And, like a lot of realism, it has the deep thoughts and well-crafted sentences that make it literary fiction—the kind of book where you make sure to conspicuously display the title so everyone else can admire your excellent taste. In other words, this is a piece of Serious Literature. In fact, it's so serious that it's considered one of the best examples of Latin American fiction.

But it's not just out to win awards. Instead, Inspector uses it to raise Big Questions about existence, putting it squarely in the category of …

Philosophical Literature

What does it mean to be? What is the meaning of existence? What is happiness, and how do we know if we have it?

Welcome to the philosophical novel. This is the kind of book where you're really not supposed to care about the characters. Or, well, if you do, that's just a bonus. The point is that the characters represent big ideas, and we're supposed to look at the way they're represented and the way we act to think about life, the universe, and everything.

But don't expect any answers. This a postmodern text, and the one thing you don't get in postmodernism is answers.


A narrative that jumps around from past to present and then past again? A narrator who constantly breaks the fourth wall to talk to readers? A loud and pronounced struggle with words? Hello, postmodernism. Postmodernism is like pornography: you can't define it, but you know it when you see it. And what we have here is postmodernism. This is a world in which clear answers don't exist—and, without clear answers, there's no clear narrative.

Frustrating? Sure. But also pretty cool—because that's what all our lives are like.

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